Prepare for a Job Interview by Researching Potential Employers
If you Google the fairly generic and broadly applicable phrase "Know Before You Go," one of the top results is an avalanche safety website operated by the Utah Avalanche Center. Out of all the hazards to be aware of when walking into an IT job interview, steering clear of a massive, enveloping, roaring surge of ice and snow is probably at or near the bottom of the list.
Just like an avalanching mountainside could ruin your backcountry ski adventure, however, stepping into an IT job interview unprepared is a good way to see your employment prospects get definitively snowed under. The more that you know before you go, the more likely it is that you'll be invited back — either to the second round of interviews, or to meet with HR and fill out your intake paperwork.
There's a long list of areas where you should apply that preparatory mindset, but this article is going to focus on just one of them: How much do you know about the company where you want to work? Employers want to work with people who are interested in what they do. Maybe you only applied because you need the money. It won't make a good impression, however, if you actually say that.
One of the simplest and most straightforward ways to make a good impression at your interview is to have a good working knowledge of the company, what they do, and possibly even who some of its key people are before you show up. You don't have to "become an expert" about the company and its products — if you actually knew that much, you'd already work there — but the more you know, the better off you'll be.
If you've never considered this facet of IT interview preparation before, then we have some ideas about where to start. Consider the following five resources:
1) www.YourFutureEmployer.com — Visit the company website. One key function of almost any corporate website is to tell the company's own story about what it does and why. This is an excellent place for you to get a sense of the company's values, learn about its corporate culture, and load up on information about what its products and services are. You can often try demo versions of company products, to get an even deeper look at what's underneath the hood (so to speak).
2) Can You Hear the People Sing — Employees of the company, both past and present, can tell you not only what the company does, but what it's like to work there. A current or former employee can sometimes also provide valuable advice about what your interviewer might want to hear. They can help you know which parts of your own background and work history to highlight, as well as how to put your best foot forward.
You should also check in with your personal professional network to find out whether you know someone — or know someone who knows someone — who works for the company. Find that person and talk to them. Or maybe read about their thoughts: Sites like Glassdoor also post company reviews by current and former employees.
3) Become a Follower, or a Friend — Some companies either don't have much of a social media presence, or don't do much with the presence that they have. If a company has a robust and active social media presence, however, this is another excellent place to hear the company tell its own story. You can also learn about recent accomplishments, new products, and other key developments that may not yet have trickled over to the company website.
4) A Link in the Chain — The standout social media site, particularly for anyone who is an active job seeker, is unquestionably LinkedIn. In addition to posting about products and services, many companies use LinkedIn as an informal blog of sorts. You can often find short articles on LinkedIn that discuss values important to the company, or that outline its strategic thinking. Often such articles are written by company executives or other inside thought leaders.
5) News at Nine — Unless you're applying at a gigantic, name-brand tech company, you may not find much news about them that rises to the surface when you're trawling search engine results. Look for local news sources like TV stations (which typically have a robust web presence) and regional newspapers and magazines. This can be a great way to find articles that spotlight the company or its leadership — as well as find out whether they've been in the news much, for good or ill.